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Jared Cannonier needs one more notch on his club.
With reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder Israel Adesanya perhaps waiting in the wings for the winner, Cannonier will toe the line against former divisional kingpin Robert Whittaker in the UFC 254 co-feature this Saturday at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The three-round affair appears to have all the ingredients for edge-of-your-seat drama.
Cannonier has rattled off three consecutive victories since he relocated to 185 pounds. The MMA Lab export has not competed since he brought down Jack Hermansson with second-round punches at UFC Fight Night 160 a little more than a year ago. Whittaker, meanwhile, has won 10 of his past 11 bouts. He last appeared at UFC on ESPN 14, where he rebounded from a knockout loss to the aforementioned Adesanya with a five-round unanimous decision over Darren Till on July 25.
As Cannonier and Whittaker make final preparations for their high-stakes confrontation, a look at some of the numbers that have accompanied them to this point:
29: Years of age for Whittaker, who was born on Dec. 20, 1990 in Auckland, New Zealand.
660: Days spent by Whittaker as UFC middleweight champion. He remains one of only 11 men who have held the undisputed title at 185 pounds. Adesanya, Georges St. Pierre, Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, Evan Tanner, Murilo Bustamante and Dave Menne are the others.
606: Significant strikes landed by Whittaker since he moved to the 185-pound weight class, putting him ninth on the UFC’s all-time list for middleweights. Only Bisping (1,384), Chris Camozzi (800), Silva (717), Brad Tavares (699), Yoel Romero (667), Rafael Natal (656), Elias Theodorou (644) and Nate Marquardt (618) have connected with more.
48: Leg kicks landed by Whittaker in his split decision victory over Romero in their rematch at UFC 225, a single-fight record for a middleweight. It bested the previous benchmark set by Nick Ring, who connected with 43 leg kicks in a split decision loss to Camozzi at UFC 158.
7: Post-fight bonuses banked by Whittaker across his 15 appearances inside the Octagon. He has been awarded “Fight of the Night” four times and “Performance of the Night” on three occasions, resulting in $350,000 of additional income.
36: Years of age for Cannonier, who was born in Dallas on March 16, 1984.
2: Cannonier victories by submission, accounting for 15% of his career total (13). Known more for his kill-switch punching power, he put away Jason Coomes with an armbar 46 seconds into the first round of their Alaska Fighting Championship 85 pairing in 2011 and took care of Stephen Waalkes with a rear-naked choke 2:02 into the second round of their encounter at an AK Entertainment show in 2013.
.774: Cumulative winning percentage between the four men—Dominick Reyes, Jan Blachowicz, Glover Teixeira and Shawn Jordan—who have defeated Cannonier.
29: Seconds needed for Cannonier to strike Matt Herringshaw into submission under the Alaska Cage Fighting banner on Oct. 28, 2011. Having occurred in his third professional appearance, it remains his fastest finish to date.
3: Weight classes in which Cannonier has fought since he joined the UFC roster a little less than six years ago. He has gone 2-3 as a light heavyweight, 3-0 as a middleweight and 1-1 as a heavyweight.